How we need to pray!
Not talk about it. Not have conferences about it. But to actually practice the privilege of prayer.
Paul said, “Continue in prayer” (Colossians 4:2). The Greek word for “continue” speaks of persistence and constancy. Continue steadfastly in prayer.
Why is persistence necessary in prayer? Some people say that praying for the same need more than once shows a lack of faith on our part. Yet, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed the same prayer three times (Matthew 26:39–44).
Also, in speaking of his own thorn in the flesh, Paul the apostle said, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me” (2 Corinthians 12:8).
Jesus taught persistence in prayer in two parables. In the first one He said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). He then illustrated this by the story of a callous judge and a determined widow. The widow visited the judge every day saying, “Avenge me of mine adversary.”
The judge, even though he did not fear God or man, said, “This woman will drive me crazy by coming here every day!” So, he wrote out his judgment in her favor. Then Jesus added, “Shall not God avenge his own elect…? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:2–8).
At first I found difficulty with the fact that Jesus used an unjust judge as a comparison with our just God. But the parable actually shows a vast contrast. If an unjust judge could be persuaded to act by the persistence of a woman, how much more will our fair and loving Father bring about a just and speedy judgment for those who are calling upon Him.
The other parable about persistence in prayer concerns a fellow who heard a knock on his door at midnight. He opened the door to find some of his friends had come to spend the night. Wanting to feed them before he bedded them down, he went to the cupboard but found he didn’t have enough bread. So, he went to his neighbor’s house, knocked on the door, and said, “Open up and give me some bread! I’ve got company.”
The neighbor replied, “I’m already in bed with my wife and children. Come back tomorrow.” But the fellow kept knocking and wouldn’t stop until he had what he needed. Because of this man’s importunity, the neighbor finally got up and gave him the bread (Luke 11:5–10).
We see that the Bible teaches persistence in prayer. Does that mean our prayers persuade God to do things our way? Does God have an arbitrary reluctance to answer us, and we make Him give in to our demands by being persistent and obnoxious? I hardly think so.
I am convinced that prayers do not and cannot change the purposes of God—though you pray fervently, though you petition with tears, though you pray for days. God is far too loving to give in just because you are weeping and persevering for something He knows would be detrimental to you and would destroy you in the end.
Prayer doesn’t change the purpose of God, but prayer can change the action of God.
Jesus said, “Your Father knows the things you have need of, before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8 NKJV). Your prayers aren’t for the purpose of informing God of your situation. He knows all your needs before you ever ask Him. But your prayers open the door and allow God the opportunity to do those things that He’s been desiring to do, but wouldn’t do in violation of your own free will.
In John 15:16, Jesus said to His disciples,
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give you (NKJV).
Note, He may give it to you. God knows your needs and desires to meet them. Prayer opens the door to allow Him to do those things He desires to do. It is giving God my consent to do what He desires in my life. God has given me a free will and will not violate my free will. Thus, I must ask in order to receive.
God knows that in one year I will need a particular thing, because He knows all my exact needs in advance. I don’t know my needs even a month from now. If God gave me today what I’ll need in a year, then I might not use it as He intends it to be used.
So, as I become aware of my needs, I cry out to God, “Help me and meet this need now.” I have finally become aware of the problem. But God has been aware of it all the time. Now when I ask Him for help, He is free to give it to me because I’ll use it as He wants it to be used.